Zandvoort FP3: Verstappen in a league of his own in the wet

Zandvoort FP3: Verstappen in a league of his own in the wet

Max Verstappen topped the final practice session for the 2023 Dutch Grand Prix in wet conditions, the reigning Formula 1 Champion in a league of his own despite an error on his final lap.

The Red Bull ace was almost four tenths faster than George Russell in the Mercedes, and the gap would’ve been even bigger had it not been to an error from the #1 RB19 driver at Turn 11, as he was improving his times.

Sergio Perez was third fastest in the sister Red Bull, one second off the pace of his teammate.

However, the rain has set the stage for an exciting qualifying later today, as McLaren, Aston Martin, and Mercedes seem to be in decent form and looking to capitalize on the conditions.

Ferrari on the other hand are still struggling as both Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz had several off track moments during the session.

Buildup towards FP3

The main talking point after Friday at Zandvoort was Daniel Ricciardo breaking his hand after his crash during FP2, after just two races from his comeback. The Aussie was replaced by another Red Bull junior driver, Liam Lawson.

The dry weather from Friday was gone and rain prevailed over the track at Zandvoort at the start of the final practice session ahead of qualifying.

Verstappen seemed to be in strong form as usual despite Lando Norris topping the second practice session, while Mercedes seemed to be locked in a fight with McLaren and Aston Martin for best of the rest status.

Also worth mentioning the Williams of Alex Albon who was in the top five in FP1 while he was third fastest in FP2. Can he sustain that level?

But the rain is bound to mix things up and deliver a more interesting weekend going forward, especially that forecasts show rain for Sunday as well.

Zandvoort FP3 session highlights

As mentioned, the session started in wet conditions, with the track temperature of 19 degrees while the ambient temperatures were in the region of 17 degrees.

Five minutes into the session, Verstappen, the first driver to hit the track had a moment at Turn 3, as his RB19 got out of shape and he just missed to hit the wall.

“I don’t know what happened there. I just suddenly lost all the grip,” the Dutchman reported over the radio.

His teammate Perez, had a moment of his own minutes later, having a trip through the gravel in the #11 RB19.

But moments later, and while on his first out lap of the session, Kevin Magnussen lost control of his Haas at Turn 3 as well, on cold tyre and hit the wall damaging the front left end of his VF-23, and bringing out the Red flag.

Guenther Steiner was not happy with Magnussen, he told Sky Sports F1 from the Haas pit wall: “Quite disappointed with this on an out lap in Turn Three knowing we have only two of the new wings left from yesterday.

“I’m pretty pissed off right now. He just spun up the rear tyres, and spun. On the out lap the tyres are cold, we know that,” he added.

The session was resumed with almost 45 minutes remaining on the clock.

The rain was expected to increase after the Red flag ended, McLaren and Mercedes informing Norris and Lewis Hamilton of that, the latter asked to return to the pits.

In the meantime Leclerc went fastest but then lost the car and went straight into Turn 1, but managed to keep his front wing out of the barriers. Soon Norris went faster, then Verstappen took over the top spot by over 1.5s.

With 35 minutes remaining, Zhou Guanyu brought out the second Red flag of the session as he beached his Alfa Romeo at Turn 13 and couldn’t get going again.

Pierre Gasly also had an off moment in his Alpine just moments before Zhou’s incident.

The session was resumed with 25 minutes remaining, and a couple of moments later, Sainz had an off moment of his own and going deep into Turn 1, reporting that he locked up.

The weather started to improve with Mercedes tweeting they are planning to do some balance and setup work in the final 20 minutes of the session.

The track kept on improving and the lap times continued to drop as drivers and teams tried to make good use of the time left as they prepare for qualifying that was expected to run in similar conditions.

Esteban Ocon soon brought out a brief Yellow flag also going straight at Turn 1, similar to what the Ferraris did. However the Frenchman actually hit the barriers.

Lawson soon brought out the third Red flag of the session, after spinning at Turn 13. However the Kiwi managed to get going again. But all the cars had to return to the pits until the Red flag was cleared.

Leclerc seemed to be having an issue with Turn 1 as he repeated his mistake there with six minutes remaining from the end.

Verstappen kept improving his times towards the end but had a moment at Turn 11 when trying to go faster on his final timed lap, but his top spot remained unthreatened.

How they finished

Verstappen posted a 1:21.631 to go fastest in FP3, 0.379s faster than Russell, second fastest in the Mercedes, and one second faster than teammate Perez who was third.

Fernando Alonso posted the fourth-fastest time of the session, 1.003s slower than Verstappen and 0.089s faster than Hamilton who was fifth fastest.

Albon again was superb, sixth fastest in the Williams, 1.119s off the pace and 0.142s faster than Oscar Piastri who was seventh fastest in the McLaren.

Valtteri Bottas was eighth fastest for Alfa Romeo, 1.334s away from the benchmark while Leclerc was 0.128s further down the road in ninth.

Norris was tenth fastest for McLaren.

FP3 Results